Mantra and Yoga

Shiva and Parvathi

Shiva and Parvathi Blessing Krishna in Mahabharata

by Jayaram V

The following conversation between Himalaya and Sri Devi, taken from the scripture, Sri Devibhagavatam, is significant because it explains briefly the meaning, significance and the practice of the Eightfold Yoga (ashtanga-yoga). You may even consider it as a summary of the Yogasutras. The Devi defines Yoga as the identification of the individual Self with the Supreme Self. The identification is not a mere mental or intellectual notion, but a true realization, at a much deeper level, in a state of self-absorption that the Self is one and only and the rest is a mere appearance of delusion.

The goddess also explains what the obstacles are to such a realization and how they can be overcome. We find similar concepts in the Yogasutras. However we do not find in it the additional Yamas and Niayamas which are mentioned here as ten each. She also lists five postures (asanas), which are not mentioned in specifically in the Yogasutras, and explains how they should be practiced. How to perform Pranayama is also explained in great detail, along with two types of Pranayama, one in which mantra and japam are used during breathing and the other in which only Aum is used. From the conversation we also learn about the 12 places upon which the mind should be held during Dharana or concentration. Dhyana is concentrating the mind upon the personal deity (ista devata). The later part of the conversation focuses upon the nerve centers (nadis) present in the body and their importance. Since this conversation covers the entire gamut of yoga practice in a short space, the following passage carries great significance in our understanding of the principles and practice of yoga. Jayaram V

1. Himâlayâ said :-- "O Mahes'varî! Now tell me the Yoga with all its Amgas (limbs) giving the knowledge of the Supreme Consciousness so that, I may realize my Self, when I practice according to those instructions.

2-10. S'rî Devî said :-- "The Yoga does not exist in the Heavens; nor does it exist on earth or in the nether regions (Pâtâla). Those who are skilled in the Yogas say that the realization of the identity between the Jivâtma and the Paramâtmâ is "Yoga." O Sinless One! The enemies to this Yoga are six; and they are lust, anger, greed, ignorance, vanity and jealousy. The Yogis attain the Yoga when they become able to destroy these six enemies by practicing the accompaniments to Yoga. Yama, Niyama, Âsana, Prânâyâma, Pratyâhâra, Dhâranâ, Dhyâna, and Samâdhi, these are the eight limbs of Yoga. Yama includes Ahimsâ (non-injuring; non- killing); truthfulness; Asteyam (non-stealing by mind or deed); Brahmacharya (continence); Dayâ (mercy to all beings); Uprightness; forgiveness, steadiness; eating frugally, restrictedly and cleanliness (external and internal). These are ten in number. Niyama includes also ten qualities:-- (1) Tapasyâ (austerities and penances); (2) contentment; (3) Âstikya (faith in the God and the Vedas, Devas, Dharma and Adharma); (4) Charity (in good causes); worship of God; hearing the Siddhântas (established sayings) of the Vedas; Hrî or modesty (not to do any irreligious or blameable acts); S'raddhâ (faith to go do good works that are sanctioned); (9) Japam (uttering silently the mantrams, Gâyatrîs or sayings of Purânas) and (10) Homam (offering oblations daily to the Sacred Fire). There are five kinds of Asanas (Postures) that are commendable: Padmâsan, Svastikâsan, Bhadrâsan, Vajrâsan and Vîrâsan. Padmâsan consists in crossing the legs and placing the feet on the opposite thighs (the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh) and catching by the right hand brought round the back, the toes of the right foot and catching by the left hand brought round the back the toes of the left foot; sitting then straight and with ease. This is recommended by the Yogis (and by this one can raise oneself in the air).

N. B. -- The hands, according to some, need not be carried round the back; both the hands are crossed and placed similarly on the thighs.

11-20. Place the soles of the feet completely under the thighs, keep the body straight, and sit at ease. This is called the Svastikâsan. Bhadrâsan consists in placing well the two heels on the two sides of the two nerves of the testicle, near the anus and catching by the two hands the two heels at the lower part of the testicles and then sitting at ease. This is very much liked by the Yogis. Vajrâsan (diamond seat) consists in placing the feet on the two thighs respectively and placing the fingers below the thighs with the hands also there, and then sitting at ease. Vîrasan consists in sitting cross on the hams in placing the right foot under the right thigh and the left foot under the left thigh and sitting at ease with body straight.

Taking in the breath by the Idâ (the left nostril) so long as we count "Om" sixteen, retaining it in the Susumnâ so long as we count "Om" sixty-four times and then exhaling it slowly by the Pingalâ nâdi (the right nostril) as long as we count "Om" thirty-two times. (The first process is called Pûraka, the second is called Kumbhaka, and the third is called Rechaka). This is called one Prânâyâma by those versed in the Yogas. Thus one should go on again and again with his Prânâyâma. At the very beginning, try with the number twelve, i. e., as we count "Om" twelve times and then increase the number gradually to sixteen and so on. Prânâyâma is of two kinds :-- Sagarbha and Vigarbha. It is called Sagarbha when Prânâyâma is performed with repeating the Ista Mantra and Japam and meditation. It is called Vigarbha Prânâyâma when "Om" is simply counted and no other Mantram. When this Prânâyâma is practised repeatedly, perspiration comes first when it is called of the lowest order; when the body begins to tremble, it is called middling; and when one rises up in the air, leaving the ground, it is called the best Prânâyâma. (Therefore one who practises Prânâyâma ought to continue it till he becomes able to rise in the air).

21-30. Now comes Pratyâhâra. The senses travel spontaneously towards their objects, as if they are without anyone to check. To curb them perforce and to make them turn backwards from those objects is called "Pratyâhâra," To hold the Prâna Vâyu on toes, heels, knees, thighs, sacrum genital organs, navel, heart, neck, throat, the soft palate, nose, between the eyebrows, and on the top of the head, at these twelve places respectively is called the "Dhâranâ." Concentrate the mind on the consciousness inside and then meditate the Ista Devatâ within the Jîvâtmâ. This is the Dhyâna. Samâdhi is identifying always the Jîvâtmâ and Paramâtmâ. Thus the sages say. (Samâdhi is of two kinds (1) Samprajñâta, or Savikalpak and (2) Nirvikalpak. When the ideas the Knower, Knowledge and the Thing Known, rernain separate in the consciousness and yet the mind feels the one Akhanda Sachchidânanda Brahma and his heart remains, there, that is called Samprajñâta Samâdhi; and when those three vanish away and the one Brahma remains, it is called Asamprajñâta Samâdhi). Thus I have described to you the Yoga with its eight limbs. O Mountain! This body composed of the five elements, and with Jîva endowed with the essence of the Sun, the Moon, and the Fire and Brahma in it as one and the same, is denominated by the term "Vis'va." There are the 350,000 nâdis in this body of man; of these, the principal are ten. Out of the ten again, the three are most prominent. The foremost and first of these three is Susumnâ, of the nature of the Moon, Sun, and Fire, situated in the centre of the spinal cord (it extends from the sacral plexus below to the Brahmaradhra in the head at the top where it looks like a blown Dhustûra flower). On the left of this Susumnâ is the Idâ Nâdî, white and looking like Moon; this Nâdî is of the nature of Force, nectar-like. On the right side of the Susumnâ is the Pingalâ Nâdî of the nature of a male; it represents the Sun. The Susumnâ comprises the nature of the all the Tejas (fires) and it represents Fire.

31-41. The inmost of Susumnâ is Vichtrâ or Chitrinî Bhûlingam nâdî (of the form of a cobweb) in the middle of which resides the Ichchâ (will), Jñâna (knowledge) and Kriyâ (action) S'aktîs, and resplendent like the Millions of Suns. Above Him is situated Hrîm, the Mâyâ Vîja Harâtmâ with "Ha" and Chandravindu repesenting the Sound (Nâda). Above this is the Flame, Kula Kundalinî (the Serpent Fire) of a red colour, and as it were, intoxicated. Outside Her is the Âdhâra Lotus of a yellow colour having a dimension of four digits and Comprising the four letters "va", "s'a", "sa", and "sa". The Yogis meditate on this. In its centre is the hexagonal space (Pîtham). This is called the Mûlâdhâra for it is the base and it supports all the six lotuses. Above it is the Svâdhisthâna Chakra, fiery and emitting lustre like diamond and with six petals representing the six letters "ba", "bha", "ma", "ya", "ra", "la". The word "Sva" means "Param Lingam" (superior Male Symbol). Therefore the sages call this "Svâdhisthân Chakram. Above it is situated the "Manipura Chakram" of the colour of lightning in clouds and very fiery; it comprises the ten Petals, comprising the 10 letters da, dha, na, ta, tha, da, dha, na, pa, pha. The lotus resembles a full blown pearl; hence it is "Manipadma." Visnu dwells here. Meditation here leads to the sight of Visnu, Above it is "Anâhata" Padma with the twelve petals representing, the twelve letters Ka, Kha, Gha, m###, (cha), (chha), (Ja), (Jha,) Îya, ta, and tha. In the middle is Bânalingam, resplendent like the Sun. This lotus emits the sound S'abda Brabma, without being struck; therefore it is called the Anâhata Lotus. This is the source of joy. Here dwalls Rudra, the Highest Person."

42-43. Above it is situated the Vis'uddha Chakra of the sixteen petals, comprising the sixteen letters a, â, i, î, u, û, ri, ri, li, lri, e, ai, o, ar, am, ah. This is of a smoky colour, highly lustrous, and is situated in the throat. The Jîvâtmâ sees the Paramâtmâ (the Highest Self) here and it is purified; hence it is called Vis'uddha. This wonderful lotus is termed Âkâs'a.

44-45. Above that is situated betwixt the eyebrows the exceedingly beautiful Ajñâ Chakra with two petals comprising the two letters "Ha," and Ksa. The Self resides in this lotus. When persons are stationed here, they can see everything and know of the present, past and future. There one gets the commands from the Highest Deity (e. g. now this is for you to do and so on); therefore it is called the Ajñâ Chakra.

46-47. Above that is the Kailâs'a Chakra; over it is the Rodhinî Chikra. O One of good vows! Thus I have described to you all about the Âdhâra Chakras. The prominent Yogis say that above that again, is the Vindu Sthân, the seat of the Supreme Deity with thousand petals. O Best of Mountains! Thus I declare the best of the paths leading to Yoga.

48. Now hear what is the next thing to do. First by the "Pûraka", Prânâyâma, fix the mind on the Mulâdhâra Lotus. Then contract and arouse the Kula Kundalinî S'aktî there, between the anus and the genital organs, by that Vâyu.

49. Pierce, then, the Lingams (the lustrous Svayambhu Âdi Lingam) in the several Chakras above-mentioned and transfer along with it the heart united with the S'akti to the Sahasrâra (the Thousand petalled Lotus). Then meditate the S'aktî united with S'ambhu there.

50-51. There is produced in the Vindu Chakra, out of the intercourse of S'iva and S'aktî, a kind of nectar-juice, resembling a sort of red-dye (lac). With that Nectar of Joy, the wise Yogis make the Mâyâ S'aktî, yielding successes in Yoga, drink; then pleasing all the Devas in the six Chakras with the offerings of that Nectar, the Yogi brings the S'aktî down again on the Mûlâdhâra Lotus.

52. Thus by daily practising this, all the above mantras will no doubt, be made to come to complete success.

53-54. And one will be free from this Samsâra, filled with old age and death, etc. O Lord of Mountains! I am the World Mother; My devotee will get all My qualities; there is no doubt in this. O Child! I have thus described to you the excellent Yoga, holding the Vâyu (Pavana Dhârana Yoga).

55. Now hear from Me the Dhârânâ Yoga. To fix thoroughly one's heart on the Supremely Lustrous Force of Mine, pervading all the quarters, countries, and all time leads soon to the union of the Jîva and the Brahma.

56-58. If one does not quickly do this, owing to impurities of heart, then the Yogi ought to adopt what is called the "Avayava Yoga." O Chief of Mountains! The Sâdhaka should fix his heart on my gentle hands, feet and other limbs one by one and try to conquer each of these places. Thereby his heart would be purified. Then he should fix that purified heart on My Whole Body.

59-62. The practiser must practice with Japam and Homam the Mantram till his mind be not dissolved in Me, My Consciousness. By the practice of meditating on the Mantra, the thing to be known (Brahma) is transformed into knowledge. Know this as certain, that the Mantra is futile without Yoga and the Yoga is futile without the Mantra. The Mantra and the Yoga are the two infallible means to realize Brahma. As the jar in a dark room is visible by a lamp, so this Jîvâtmâ, surrounded by Mâyâ is visible by means of Mantra to the Paramâtmâ (the Highest Self). O Best of Mountains! Thus I have described to you the Yogas with their Angas (limbs). You should receive instructions about them from the mouth of a Guru; else millions of S'âstras will never be able to give you a true realization of the meanings of the yogas.

Here ends the Thirty-fifth Chapter of the Seventh Book on the Yoga and the Mantra Siddhi in the Mahâ Purânam S'ri Mad Devî Bhâgavatam of 18,000 verses, by Maharsi Veda Vyâsa

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